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Industries & Professions /
Facilities management is a field that blends business management, architecture, engineering, and (increasingly) information technology. It coordinates the physical workplace with the people and work within it.
Although work takes place in many different kinds of facilities—including factories, office buildings, hospitals, prisons, theaters, schools, and laboratories—all facilities share the need for certain services. They all need to be secure and safe, heated in winter, cooled in summer, protected from the elements, clean, and effectively connected to the infrastructures of power, water, waste removal, information, and transportation. They need to avoid fires and floods as much as possible and to be minimally disrupted by disasters and temporary setbacks such as power outages. In a small facility, one person may ride herd on all of these duties—and, in fact, this characterizes 80 percent of the establishments in this industry—but in larger facilities or in firms that manage multiple facilities, these responsibilities often are assigned to separate managerial departments and handled by specialized workers.
The businesses that arrange for all of these needs to be met belong to the industry that the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls facilities support services, which employs 127,400 workers. The Census estimates that almost 5,600 businesses were engaged in this industry in 2007, with sales of $26 billion. Another 5,000 businesses, with 130,000 employees, provided computer facilities management services, with sales of $30 billion.
These figures for the industry do not represent the work that goes on in the businesses housed in the facilities. For example, these figures do not include the front desk clerks in hotels, the doctors and nurses in hospitals, or the cooks and servers in restaurants. Neither do they include people who work for establishments that contract with facility management to provide support services, such as a security business that provides guards to patrol a shopping mall at night, a plumbing business that sends someone to fix a leaky faucet in someone's apartment, or a landscaping business that provides weekly lawn mowing for an office park. People who work in facilities support services, such as administrative services managers, contract with these other kinds of businesses for such necessary tasks that keep the facility running smoothly. Their responsibility is to maintain and manage the facility.
The industry is of comparatively recent origin. It emerged because facilities operations became too complex to be managed efficiently by those running the businesses within the facilities. The key occupation that developed to manage these services, administrative services managers, now employs more than 280,000 workers. This figure is nearly as large as the combined employment figures for the facilities support services and computer facilities management services industries because it includes some workers who manage business support functions such as mail delivery, secretarial work, and office supplies that are not considered functions of a facility but rather of businesses within the facility.
The outlook for administrative services managers, 12 percent growth through 2022, is about the same as the average for all occupations. The occupation tends to be sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. During recessions, the many small operations in this industry, in which one person manages all facilities support functions, tend to be consolidated into large firms employing managers who delegate the work to specialized departmental managers.